Have you ever had someone try to sell you something? They start off so friendly, giving you compliments, and being kind. You think, “wow, what a nice person” and then BAM, they hit you with a sales pitch. It makes you question everything about your entire conversation, including their motive for wanting to get to know you.
Have you ever tried to sell someone Jesus? You start the same way. Then BAM, you say it: want to come to my church? Insert eyeroll here. Let’s be honest; sometimes as followers of Jesus, we think we need to be salespeople!
We all want to love our neighbors well, but man, do our motives get messed up! As pastors, we have two values constantly at play. We want to love our neighbors really well and we want our churches to grow. We think if we just reach out and love our neighbors, they will come to our church.
In my experience, that’s not necessarily true. You can love your neighbors incredibly well, but it does not mean that they will come to your church. But isn’t that okay? Jesus never said that we will build our churches by loving our neighbors. In fact, in Matthew 16, he said he will build his church.
I would never want to be loved just to fulfill someone’s agenda...I want to be loved because I’m worthy of love. Simple as that.
So, how are we to love people? We love people the way we, ourselves, want to be loved (Matthew 22:39). I would never want to be loved just to fulfill someone’s agenda. That doesn’t feel good to me, and I’m sure it doesn’t feel good to them! I want to be loved because I’m worthy of love. Simple as that.
I think we need a heart check. Are we hosting a cookout with neighbors simply to try to bait them into coming to our church? Or are we inviting them over to dinner because we truly long to know who they are? Our motives change everything.
We want church community to be a byproduct of our love, not the motivation for it.
Of course, we want our friends, neighbors, and co-workers to know the love of Jesus. We would love for them to find life and community in the context of the church that we love, simply because we have each experienced incredible freedom, life, and joy there. We want church community to be a byproduct of our love, not the motivation for it.
How do we love our neighbors well without being weird? Find common ground. Before I am a pastor, I am a daughter, a wife, a mom of three, and a lover of red wine and group fitness classes. Certainly, I can bring parts of me to the table that resonate with my neighbors. That means I host wine nights. I plan playdates and BBQs. I mow neighbor’s lawns and bring them coffee. I do it all in the name of love, not in the name of church growth.
I am honored to get to do life with some amazing neighbors. Some come to my church and many others don’t, but I have found true friends from all walks of life and they bless me more than I could have ever anticipated. I don’t think I could out-love them if I tried! Love breeds love. Sounds like the kingdom to me.
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How is God inviting you to love your neighbors in a more authentic way? Take a minute to ask God to bring to mind some ways that he's inviting you to participate with him in your community. We'd love to hear from you! Share with us in the comments.
Leah is a born-and-raised Vineyard kid, and has been a Pastor at The Vineyard Church of Central Illinois since 2008. She has been married to her husband Ben for 13 years and has three awesome (exhausting) kids; Cohen (8), Claire (5) and Gia (3). In her spare time, she loves to preach, play the guitar, travel and drink all.the.coffee.